The two will become one flesh
Today’s Gospel passage is part of Mark’s instruction on discipleship. The fledgling Christian community was beset with inner conflict wrestling with how their belief in Jesus affected the customs and practises under Mosaic law.
We hear in the Gospel how the Pharisees tested Jesus about these practices and how divorce was permitted under Mosaic law. The normally gentle and accepting Jesus bluntly states that divorce was never part of God’s plan. The man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. Infidelity is not a part of God’s plan.
We know that marriage is incredibly important, so what makes a marriage? Is it a legal ceremony and a marriage license? Is it a Church ceremony with organ, candles, and priests? Is it the bodily union of the partners?
While all of these are important it is the joining of the lives of a man and a woman that constitutes marriage. Marriage is a covenant established through the free, informed consent of both parties who give themselves irreversibly and completely to each other. Even if they are not baptised people a natural marriage bond is formed that is greatly respected by the Catholic Church. When it happens between two baptised persons the Holy Spirit is poured out and that natural bond is elevated to a supernatural sacrament.
The natural blessings of marriage are numerous such as companionship, mutual support and intimacy of the spouses plus the possibility of having children. In a sacramental marriage the spouses are a visible sign of the unbreakable covenant between Christ and His Church.
In both cases the couple are joined and the two have become one – the 1st on a natural level, the 2nd on both natural and supernatural levels. This is not something external, superficial, and transient. Rather, it is an indelible and inner reality representing the once in a lifetime promise of one person to another.
What is Jesus trying to teach us? Perhaps about the importance of the promises we make; of being faithful to what we commit to and our need to be committed to God above all else. The covenant commitment we have with God is based on mutual self-giving that guarantees a never-ending love! Marriage is an expression of that covenant made between a man and a woman who similarly want their love to never end.
Marriage is a covenant. It is not just a social convention but the mutual belonging together of two people who have joined their lives. Like our commitment to God, marriage cannot be broken.
When Jesus laments at how unteachable the Jews were the Lord was referring to how the heart of God’s people was divided. They wanted whatever they wanted not being able to realise that when we make promises to God and to one another we are bound to choose wisely and be faithful to covenants we make. God’s plan isn’t about following laws, rather God’s plan is one of loving fidelity to God and to each other.
Reflect: Being faithful to Christ is the key to an unbreakable bond between husband and wife.
A Place to Call Home
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2018–19 is titled ‘A Place to Call Home: Making a home for everyone in our land’. (PDF http://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/files/SJSandresources/2018/050918/Social%20Justice%20Statement%202018%20WEB.pdf).
The latest Census figures show that more than 116,000 Australians are homeless – something unacceptable for a rich and well-resourced nation like ours.
The Scriptural basis of this year’s Statement is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–35), about the outsider who stops to help a man in desperate need, takes him to safety and pays for his care.
Every day in our streets, we, like the Samaritan, see wounded people desperately in need of help. They are the homeless and the lost, injured by misfortune, by violence and by poverty. How have so many people come to be on the streets of such a rich nation? And how is it that housing has become so unaffordable that it excludes increasing numbers of Australians?
In the Gospel of the good Samaritan Jesus told this parable in response to a lawyer who challenged him: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ and ‘Who is my neighbour?’ The lawyer clearly wanted to test how far the commandment to love our neighbour extended.
In the parable, the man by the roadside, stripped and left half dead, had experienced what most people who sleep rough in our cities and towns know and fear: danger, violence and being robbed of the little they own. He, like many who are homeless in our society, was helpless.
While the priest and the Levite passed by, the Samaritan went out of his way, came close and tended the victim’s wounds with oil and bandages. He put his hand into his own pocket to help.
All four characters illustrate the social and political circumstances of the day. There was division between Jews and Samaritans. There was division between the rich and the poor.
We too live in a divided society – one in which we can so easily cross to the other side of the road. Jesus challenges us as individuals and as a nation. Will Australia let its heart go out to the homeless or will we continue to walk past?
The challenge of homelessness can seem so overwhelming that we may ask: ‘What can I do as an individual? There are so many people in need, with such complex problems.’ The challenges of homelessness can seem insurmountable. And, of course, there are limits to what each of us can do.
However, Jesus’ parable shows us how revolutionary and effective the actions of one person can be. Each one of us can make a difference and, when we join with others, we can be a real force for change.
We are called to be like the Samaritan by:
• We can make sure all are welcomed in our parishes.
• We can all lend a hand. There are many organisations and programs working to prevent homelessness, to support and help find accommodation for people who are homeless. We can support the outstanding work of organisations like CatholicCare and Vinnies by volunteering our time or raising donations. We commend and encourage the commitment of young people engaging in many works of charity and justice for the poor through their schools and youth apostolates. This is an essential witness of our faith.
• We can raise awareness about the problem of homelessness in various ways.
On Social Justice Sunday we take the readings from the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prayers of the Faithful
The following intercessions are offered for incorporation in your Prayers of the Faithful.
Celebrant: We pray to the God of all people, that our hearts will be open to Jesus’ message of justice and compassion and that we will be inspired to welcome and support our sisters and brothers who endure poverty and homelessness in our society today.
For all people who struggle to meet the costs of housing and live in the shadow of homelessness, that the abundance of our nation’s wealth will be shared to ensure that all can find a place to call home.
Let us pray to the Lord: R. Lord hear our prayer
For our political leaders who govern for the common good of our nation, that your spirit of justice and compassion will urge them on to address the scourge of homelessness in our society.
Let us pray to the Lord: R. Lord hear our prayer
For your community of faith and all people of good will, that we will foster communities in which all who are afflicted by poverty and exclusion will find welcome, belonging and assistance in their time of need.
Let us pray to the Lord: R. Lord hear our prayer
Celebrant: Hear the prayers of your people, merciful God, and in your loving kindness, grant us all that we need to remain faithful to you. We ask this through Christ Our Lord.
By Michael Britton
The last 50 years has seen a seismic bouleversement, or reversal, against the traditional norms and values that have upheld Judeo-Christian culture for well over a millennia or more.
This appears to be particularly prevalent in the Western sphere where economic progress, social liberalism, relativism and a desire to be comfortable have seemingly become more important than the value of a human person.
The 18th century might seem like ancient history to most, but Western society is still reaping what it sowed in the Romantic philosophies that provided a redundancy package for God and a sizeable promotion for humanity.
For example, “humanity” was, according to philosopher Jean Jaques Rousseau, essentially “good” but for the chains that hindered them. According to the prevailing belief of the era, humanity had a value that was founded upon itself. This is a train of thought still present today.
It could be considered a fait accompli that two very different philosophical answers to the dignity of humanity were to arise from such an experience; and that these remain today. One answer was that humanity needed to collectively rise up against those in power to bring about structural change. The other was that, in the face of such adversity, individualism and self-determination could provide humanity with the dignity and reverence that it was lacking.
Yet, having found little reward in many of the revolutions subsequent to these philosophies, many modern Existentialists and Nihilists concluded that life is “nausea”. Everything means nothing, life has no purpose or underlying dignity and is, simply, of very little value. Either way, the Church has always maintained that a culture of life could hardly be founded in a philosophy of resentment, envy or selfishness.
Today, this milieu of ideas, or philosophical soup are best reflected in what has been handed down through the post-war experiences of the second half of the 20th century. Undoubtedly, these philosophies and experiences have had a direct impact on what society thinks about the value of life today.
Around 50 years ago, the post-war generation wholly embraced the Summer of Love, Woodstock and many threads of the 18th century philosophy regarding self- determination and fulfillment. It would seem like a logical answer to the death of many people during both the “great” wars; spurred on by imperial (structural) alliances and ideological (doctrinal) foundations.
Unsurprisingly, the movements of the 1960s proclaimed the rejection of both structural authority and doctrinal truths. Many youths, born of post-war parents, embraced their own personal philosophies, determined by themselves rather than authoritative figures. Often under the influence.
Protests raged against the ideological battle being waged by the USSR and the United States in Vietnam while “free love” without consequences was high on the menu.
Notwithstanding the irony of an individualistic and anti-authoritarian philosophy being unquestionably followed by a sizeable mass of youth, it is entirely arguable that the Church foresaw these events as somewhat of a low point in the value and dignity of human life. For example, many millions of lives have been lost because of the “free love” movement and its ramifications. The alarming, yet opaque, statistics in Australia show that a child is more likely to die from an abortion than any one of the major diseases combined.
In a somewhat prophetical book, Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow and later Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla published his book Love and Responsibility in 1960, which focused on the supremacy of taking responsibility for one’s actions in a loving relationship.
He argued that a person was completely free to love but, with love, came responsibility such as children and a deep commitment to care. Love did not come at the price of another person or their dignity.
It was unheard of for a bishop to write a publication focusing on issues ranging from the sexual urge, marriage and sexology. Yet Wojtyla was unequivocally clear in expressing the total dedication, devotion and selflessness one places at the central of a Christian union.
His image of God, manifested in Christ’s love for humanity on the cross, was central to any relationship.
His writing cemented a modern application of the divinity and dignity of human life inside loving relationships for the modern era. All life had a value and a potency, an echo repeated in 1995 at the World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado when he called for an answer to the “culture of death” pervading society.
With specific reference to contentious issues such as abortion and euthanasia, he stated: “The so-called ‘quality of life’ is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions-interpersonal, spiritual and religious-of existence”.
It’s an interesting argument that reveals a confused and material global anthropology. Over the past 200 years, academics and philosophers have taught society to revolt against becoming enslaved as economic units.
Yet, today’s “culture of death” demands that if you cannot be an economic unit (contributor) or consumer, you are not considered to possess a quality of life. In other words, you cannot be a burden; with the most vulnerable at the greatest risk.
These so-called liberating, yet contradictory, philosophies will return again as they have done so in the past; possibly with even more deaths and greater callousness for personal dignity in the future.
The Church’s teaching on the dignity of life proposes a more profound and radical answer in the Catholic Catechism: “Respect for human persons entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognised by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority; by flouting them, or refusing to recognise them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy”.
A legitimacy already under question.
By Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB
There is an original dignity of every man and woman that cannot be suppressed, that cannot be touched by any power or ideology. Unfortunately, in our epoch, so rich in many accomplishments and hopes, there is no lack of powers and forces that end up producing a throwaway culture and this threatens to become the dominant mentality.
The victims of such a culture are precisely the weakest and most fragile human beings – the unborn, the poorest people, sick elderly people, gravely disabled people… who are in danger of being “thrown out”, expelled from a machine that must be efficient at all costs.
This false model of man and society embodies a practical atheism, de facto negating the Word of God that says: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (cf. Genesis 1:26).
In these remarks, made by Pope Francis to a delegation from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute in 2013, the Holy Father shines a light on what might well be called the fundamental moral and social issue of our time. It is the prevalence of a “practical atheism” which denies the most basic truth about human beings: that we are created in the image of God.
It is from this foundational principle that all Catholic moral/social teaching flows. The vocation of every human person, both individually and in communities, is to be the living image of God, the creator and sustainer of life. Every decision we take will either be in harmony with or in contradiction of this basic principle.
Pope Francis, in the address referred to above, speaks of it as our “compass”. If we follow it we will be heading in the right direction, the direction ultimately indicated to us by Jesus who on one occasion said: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10) and who on another occasion stated quite plainly, “I am the Life” (cf John 14:6)
If instead we are guided by a different “compass”, a different world view, which in practice ignores or sidelines the Word of God, found for us as Catholics in the Scriptures as they are lived and preached in the Church, then we will, perhaps slowly but certainly inevitably, compromise our commitment to the culture of life.
We will begin to find expedient reasons for denying the right of this particular unborn child to life, or that particular elderly person to quality palliative care, or a certain class of refugees to asylum, or a certain group of people with a disability to appropriate assistance and support.
Pope Francis insists that “if we let ourselves be interrogated by this Word of God, if we let it question our personal and social conscience, if we let it shake up our discussions, our ways of thinking and acting, the criteria, the priorities and choices, then things can change”.
Saint Paul makes the same point in an even more forceful way when, in his Letter to the Romans, he instructs his listeners to “adapt yourselves no longer to the patterns of this present world but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to discern the will of God and know what is good, acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).
As Christians we are called to embrace the world in which we live, recognising it as a precious gift from God but one which has been badly disfigured by sin. We embrace this world with gratitude and love knowing that we are called to transform it with love.
This is equally true of our own individual, family and community lives: these are precious gifts from God but also badly disfigured by sin. It is the love of God, reshaping our minds and hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, which will enable the beauty of God’s gifts to us to shine brightly.
If we are to have in us “the same mind that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), if we are to truly be living images of the God of life and love, if we are to be apostles of the Culture of Life, then we must find the courage to allow the compass of Gods’ word, shared with us in the teachings and tradition of the Church, to be our guide. Then, as Pope Francis says, “things can change”.
Liturgical Launch of Parish Renewal
Liturgical Launch of Parish Renewal
By the Most Rev Don Sproxton
Auxiliary Bishop of Perth
St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth
Tuesday 31 July, 2018
Download the full text in PDF
Jesus IS among us.
In the Goldfields, the Wheatbelt, throughout our country parishes.
Jesus is among us in the city, from Clarkson and Yanchep to Baldivis and Port Kennedy.
Jesus is among us here tonight.
“The Good shepherd walks with us and we together walk in his footsteps.”
As Archbishop Costelloe has reminded us, these words not only introduce us to the Archdiocesan Plan they in fact sum up all that we aspire to be and to do. We have an innovative initiative for parish renewal that gives us direction, that is flexible and that works.
The direction it gives us is a vision of collaboration as an Archdiocese that promises options in parish ministry that we have not seen before.
It is flexible in that, yes, we all are moving towards being a fully collaborative diocese. However individual parishes and agencies rightly demand that the principal of subsidiarity be respected.
It is an initiative that works. We have two groups or hubs of parishes, one south of the river and one hub north, both for some time now have been seeing for themselves the benefits of collaboration.
But above all it is an initiative, as Archbishop Costelloe has emphasised, that is centred in prayer, centred in the person of Jesus, under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
It takes seriously our Archbishop’s call to “Return the Church to Christ and return Christ to the Church.” In other words, Christ is to be at the heart of everything we say, everything we do and everything we are.
We come together as an Archdiocese first and foremost to discover what is it that God wants us to do. We collaborate firstly to discern.
In saying this, I am very mindful that there has been and continues to be various other initiatives to revitalise and strengthen parish life. I am also very conscious of the enormous work of our Religious Brothers and Sisters, of various organisations and of wonderful individual lay persons.
It so true that we often reap the hard work of others.
This evening however, as our Archbishop has announced, the Constitution that we are launching and the supporting resources are part of a new Archdiocesan initiative. It has a vision for parish renewal that sees the parish in the context of the whole Archdiocese. An Archdiocese that is collaborative.
As you will read in the preamble of the new Constitution for Parish Pastoral Councils, each parish is a legal entity, in Canon Law it is a juridical person, it has a certain independence. At the same time however it is it part of a diocese.
It is like a branch of the one vine and it is important to remember that each parish has a neighbouring parish. We are called to be true neighbours to each other, helpful and supportive neighbours.
This new initiative takes seriously that in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we indeed do walk together as an Archdiocese. Parishes and agencies working together.
This initiative recognises that the archdiocese is a territory made up of parishes and the Archdiocesan agencies a visible sign of the heartfelt pastoral care of our Archbishop. As Archbishop Costelloe said, they are one of the key and crucial ways that he reaches out to parishes as our Chief Pastor.
This new initiative calls us to come together as an Archdiocese and to work out what is it that God wants us to do. What specific ways is God asking us to participate in and continue the life and ministry of Jesus, who walks amongst us.
I mentioned earlier that two groups or hubs of parishes are already putting this initiative into practice and it is bearing wonderful fruit.
The parishes of Highgate, Joondanna and Mt Lawley form one hub and the clergy with some of their key laity meet regularly.
One of their Faith Formation initiatives close to Advent, is a series of nine sessions on the Eucharist. They have put together a sub-committee that will work on behalf of all three parishes and which will include the participation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.
We also have another hub, the parishes of Baldivis, Kwinana, Port Kennedy and Rockingham. They too have been putting this initiative of collaboration into practice. They are now going to share with us one of their new initiatives with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. It is wonderful story of collaboration between the four parishes together with two Archdiocesan agencies and the local catholic secondary school.
This is our new vision for parish renewal in action. Working in collaboration with one another and calling on the Holy Spirit to guide us to discern God’s plans for our Archdiocese. This mindset/perspective is a first for our Archdiocese.
As I mentioned earlier we do recognise all the work that is already being in the Archdiocese. This vision of collaboration is a call to work differently rather than simply working more. However, we are mindful that we do need to encourage more parishioners to engage in the life of their parish.
To this end my Parish Renewal Implementation Group has other initiatives in mind that take up the challenge of Pope Francis, namely that every person, to their own capacity, is called to be a missionary disciple.
One of the main support resources to the new Constitution is an extensive handbook that will be located on a dedicated website for parish renewal. In a moment, Carmel Suart, a member of my Parish that Renewal Implementation Group and the writer of this e-handbook will explore with us some of its features.
In conclusion, we know the harvest is indeed rich so let us now pray to the Lord of the Harvest. For we need to be thoroughly conscious that if we are to do what God wants us to be doing, we need to truly contemplate His face. We need have the mind and heart of Christ, in order to be his hands.
Link to Archdiocesan plan http://qa01.oneit.com.au:11080/cap/Our_Archdiocese-Archdiocesan_Plan_2016__2021.htm